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CD Projekt Red is not the good guy

Updated: Mar 14, 2021

Earlier this month, Polish-based video game company CD Projekt Red - famous for their Witcher series and most recently Cyberpunk 2077 – announced on their Twitter that they suffered a targeted cyberattack.

They note that their internal systems had been compromised with a ransom note released alongside the announcement.

IGN reports that in the note, the hackers claim that they have “dumped full copies of the source codes for Cyberpunk 2077, Witcher 3, Gwent, and the unreleased version of Witcher 3.”

IGN also reports that in response to this, CD Projekt Red has already issued DMCA takedowns for two separate tweets that shared the stolen game codes for Gwent.

These codes and the others mentioned above have reportedly been sold at a dark web auction for an estimated purchase price around the $7 million mark.

I’m not saying this isn’t bad news. As you can see in the above tweet, the hackers claim to have huge amounts of employees’ personal data, which could be cause for alarm (although CD Projekt Red disputes this).

This is certainly newsworthy and normally that’d be the topic of this week’s post.

However, these have been covered extensively by gaming news sites like IGN and GamesRadar+.

It was as I was researching for this post that I saw the tag line of a GamesRadar+ article stating that “the Witcher and Cyberpunk devs can’t seem to catch a break.” Now, I agree with that tagline with the following qualification:

The employees of CD Projekt Red can’t catch a break. The leadership of the company is doing just fine.

Back in November last year, I wrote a post about the appalling working conditions the developers were subjected to while working on Cyberpunk 2077 and even as far back as the Witcher 3.

This was all happening while the company kept up a public façade of being an “employee-first” company.

In the time between that blog post and this one, Marcin Iwinski – joint CEO and co-founder of the company – stepped in front of the camera to helm a short video (and accompanying blog post) that sincerely and directly addressed the community and admitted that the management and leadership team took full responsibility for Cyberpunk’s disastrous launch.

Oh sorry, I read my notes wrong. That’s what I’d imagined we’d got if the world was a just place.

Instead, Iwinski musters as much emotion he can to robotically read from a teleprompter and looking about as lively as the game on release while throwing the Quality Assurance department right under the bus.

(c) CD Projekt Red. Video Courtesy of CD Projekt Red via Youtube.

Iwinski states that “every change and improvement needed to be tested and as it turned out, our testing did not show a big part of the issues we experienced while playing the game.”

With that line the entire purpose of the video becomes clear. It’s a very polished and elaborate way for management to deflect blame and handball it all off to someone else to deal with.

You see, they didn’t do anything wrong, the QA testers just didn’t find all the bugs in time.

No, they just set unrealistic expectations of their workers while also setting unrealistic deadlines on, as Jason Schrier reports, the basis that they had made Witcher 3 and it would all just work out for them.

They also developed a toxic work culture that was built on crunch and to top it all off only included a seizure warning in their EULA without also including it anywhere that would be useful to customers.

CD Projekt Red's response seemed to indicate they couldn't have been bothered the first time to add a proper warning or modify the sequences so they wouldn't give people seizures for playing their game.

Iwinski also states that CD Projekt Red has always intended to maintain honest communication with gamers… conveniently forgetting the time they said Cyberpunk ran “surprisingly well” on current generation consoles or the time they said crunch wouldn’t happen when it had been happening for years.

Make no mistake, there was no real apology in this video, just the illusion of one masked with typical PR fluff and pandering statements.

The only thing the video shows is the company's commitment to being just like every other triple-A game developer – when push comes to shove, blame the workers underneath you any way you can.

Glance at any business management textbook and you’re bound to find some version of the following: In any organisation, orders flow down from the top, responsibility flows to the top.

CD Projekt Red understands that first part, they’re great at handing out orders, they’ve got that down pat.

It’s the second part that trips them up. They seem to think that responsibility flows down to wherever they need it to go to save themselves from being held accountable.

Don’t worry though, they’ll make sure the praise, credit, and money flows straight to the top for the people that matter – their investors.

Meanwhile, the developers who worked ridiculous hours struggle to survive in an industry where abuse is given cute names by management like “Bioware Magic” and mass layoffs are always a possibility.

And you want to know what the most frustrating part of this all is? They’ve pretty much got away scot-free.

Just like with the much-maligned Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 boycott back in 2009, gamers raged, news sites covered it and angry tweets were posted but now four months later, no one seems to care. Any discourse has been dropped as the next big story rolls in.

For a hopeful moment, it looked like we’d have another Star Wars Battlefront 2 situation where enough noise would be made that some kind of change would finally happen and a company would finally be held accountable for their horrible behaviour.

How naïve those thoughts seem now as Cyberpunk’s release on next-gen consoles is set for later this year while the current-gen version of the game is still a mess.

But it’s good to know where we draw the line.

Abusing employees to the point they end up suffering mental breakdowns? That’s fine.

Gambling in video games? Time to grab the pitchforks and light the torches.

Let’s make this extremely clear. CD Projekt Red doesn’t care about their workers. They don’t care about you. They don’t care about me. All they care about is pleasing their investors.

They’re not the drifter rolling into town to save us from other triple-A developers. They’re here to loot as much as they can along with the rest of them.

They’re not the good guys. They never have been.


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